I’m the first millennial Republican to run for US president. If you ask most people my age what it means to be an American today, you get a blank stare in response. Faith, patriotism, family and hard work are disappearing.
A recent Wall Street Journal survey reveals that young people in particular are responsible for driving this trend: 59% of Americans age 65 and older say that patriotism is “very important” to them, compared with only 23% of adults under age 30. The survey observed a similar gap with respect to interest in religion, hard work and having children.
This is sad but unsurprising. Our nation’s higher-education institutions reliably sing their America-bashing chorus: Recently Stanford University deemed the term “American” to be “harmful language.”
Even more disturbingly, the “America is bad” ilk has slinked its way into our elementary schools under the auspices of equity and social justice. Students in classrooms across America today are taught to apologize for our country’s history rather than to be proud of it. Critical race theory and gender theory pervades K-12 education, where children are taught to identify themselves as members of an “oppressor” or “oppressed” category based on their skin color and sexual preferences.
Public schools endlessly celebrate “diversity” as our strength without reminding students of what binds us together as one people.
This explains why the US military experienced a staggering — and unprecedented — 25% enrollment deficit last year. Young people will not make sacrifices to protect a nation they don’t believe in.
The woke left preys on this vacuum of identity. The new secular cults of wokeism, gender ideology, COVIDism and climateism prey on this vacuum of purpose and meaning. Blaise Pascal famously said that if you have a hole the size of God in your heart and God doesn’t fill it, then something else will.
Our inner animal spirit has been domesticated by a new culture that celebrates victimhood and penalizes excellence. That inner spirit has leapt oceans to lift up places like China, while their culture of onetime Maoist victimhood has leapt oceans in the other direction to hold us down.
When we rallied behind the cry to “make America great again,” we did not just hunger for a single man. We hungered for the unapologetic pursuit of excellence itself — that is the essence of what it means to be American.
America faced a national identity crisis in the late 1970s, and President Ronald Reagan led us out of it with a landslide election in 1980. We can do it again in 2024. We don’t have to be a nation in an inevitable decline. We don’t have to be Rome (or Carthage).
It starts with our schools, where parents must fight back against the indoctrination that says being an American is something to apologize for, and that hard work isn’t worthwhile.
Like American teenagers, our nation itself is just a little young; we are going through our version of adolescence, still figuring out who we really are. We just need to start believing in ourselves again. Once we do, an American revival awaits ahead.
Vivek Ramaswamy is co-founder of Strive Asset Management and a 2024 Republican presidential candidate.
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